Stargazing is a wonderful experience, enjoyed by sailors and explorers alike. While many see it as simply an enjoyable pastime, it has been used throughout ancient history as a nautical navigational tool. If you are looking to start stargazing on your seafaring expeditions then this blog post is for you. We will discuss some top tips for stargazing on your boat and making the most out of the night sky.
Stargazing is defined as ‘to gaze at or observe the stars’ and ‘to daydream’. It is a derivative of astronomy which is widely believed to be the oldest of the sciences. Early civilisations used their knowledge of the night sky to keep track of time, orient their cities, and to try to predict the future. Stargazing has even enabled us to map the entirety of the solar system. With our now vast knowledge of astronomy, the ease at which we can navigate using the night sky has only increased.
The ancient art of celestial navigation, otherwise known as astronavigation, uses readings of the stars and constellations to ascertain your position and plan routes accordingly.
If initially, you are struggling to retain all of the different constellations, there are several apps for your mobile phone or tablet which uses augmented reality, combined with the device’s camera, to show you exactly where the stars are. We also stock the Reeds Astronavigation Tables 2020 which contains all the information needed to navigate by the sun, moon, planets and stars.
Once you have a good knowledge of the stars, all you need is a clear sky and a good quality sextant. Sextants are primarily used to measure the angle between an astronomical object and the horizon for celestial navigation. We stock five sextants, ranging from ultra-high-end apparatus from Freiberger, to more affordable yet still highly precise plastic instruments by Davis Mark.
For a more detailed explanation of sextants and how to use them accurately, we would recommend the book Wiley Nautical Celestial Navigation written by Tom Cunliffe. This book provides a solid grounding in the art of celestial navigation.
Stargazing from your Boat
Stargazing on a quiet patch of your favourite lake, canal or ocean can be a serene experience. The top three things to take into consideration when choosing your stargazing location is whether it’s dark, quiet and safe. You may wish to stick to a familiar location on your first few trips in order to familiarise yourself with entry points and any potential problems on the water. While it may be tempting to switch all your lights while stargazing, you must keep your running lights on! Remaining visible to other boats in the water is crucial for the safety of yourself and your crew. Less essential sources of light, such as cabin lights, portable lanterns and mobile phones may be switched off to enable you to see the night sky more clearly.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the tranquillity that can go along with a stargazing expedition. Remember to wrap up warm and take plenty of hot drinks and provisions with you to ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience.